Southern students will have to pick their sleepy heads off lecture hall desks and get more involved in learning as part of a three-year Curriculum Innovation Program that will focus on four areas for innovation.
“What we’re trying to do is to get faculty out of the straight lecture mode,” said Prof. Bonnie Farley-Lucas, and director of faculty development. “There are so many other ways that we can engage students like service learning, we can do more hands on experience, more in the field and group work.”
Renee Cifarelli, sophomore social-work major, said she likes lecture style classes, but thinks the new program could be more stimulating as long as there isn’t a push for oral presentations.
“I’m not into presentations at all,” said Cifarelli, “I think they should be optional.”
According to Southern’s website, the program will focus on four specific areas for change: the Liberal Education Program, senior-level capstone courses, technologies that encourage collaborative learning and strengthen student engagement, and multidisciplinary collaborations.
Farley-Lucas said she designed the program and then wrote a grant proposal which was accepted by the Davis Foundation.
“What we’re trying to do is make change,” said Farley-Lucas, “and one of the ways that we’re going to make change is to help faculty create curriculum.”
An advisory board will review proposals from faculty who want to receive fellowships for mentoring other faculty members, said Farley Lucas.
“They’re going to create a course, they’re going to mentor other faculty who are interested,” said Farley-Lucas. “For instance, if somebody creates a course on ethics and there’s somebody in another department that’s also interested in teaching ethics they could meet with them and share their curriculum.”
Elementary Education Prof. Laura Bower will serve on the advisory board and said when choosing faculty she is looking for those who can become leaders.
“We are especially looking for an impact that goes beyond an individual course. Part of the idea is to create a culture of curriculum where people become leaders on campus in developing curriculum that engages students,” said Bower. “So if we find people that aren’t just focused on their own courses but are focused on reaching out to other department members.”
Farley-Lucas said she wants faculty to steer away from teaching straight out of a textbook.
“We want them really thinking about ok what are their overall goals and objectives. What’s the big picture that we want to accomplish by the time [the students] graduate,” said Farley-Lucas. “That’s a much bigger question then what are we going to teach in a course.”
Farley-Lucas said her main goal is to get the whole campus involved.
“My main goal is to involve as many faculty as possible in the process,” said Farley-Lucas, “as fellows, as participants in workshops.”
Farley-Lucas said there will be a number of workshops that give faculty the opportunity to get involved.
“We’re going to have a retreat in June,” said Farley-Lucas. “We’re going to have workshops each semester. It’s kind of exiting because the idea is the more people we get involved in this process, the stronger we become.”
Farley-Lucas said she feels with this program she will be able to make a big difference in many students’ education.
“If I could influence ten professors to teach better,” said Farley-Lucas, “then I’ve made a bigger difference in terms of their teaching.”